Celebrate Landscape Architecture Month With a Community Design Charette!

The small community of Kendall, which sits nestled in the Columbia Valley in northeastern Whatcom County, will be the site of the annual WASLA-National Park Service community assistance project in 2015.  Situated near the junction of two state highways that provide access to the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Mount Baker Ski Area, the unincorporated community is a quiet, rural place. Originally developed as a spot for vacation homes and mountain rentals, it is now home to approximately 4,000 residents and a handful of destinations: a library, elementary school, resource center, churches, and two convenience stores.

Like many rural areas, it lacks safe spaces for people to walk or bike between home and community destinations on the highway, such as the elementary school, library, or resource center.  In 2011, this concern sparked action among people who live or work in the area, including staff of the Whatcom County Library System, and the East Whatcom Coalition for Safe and Healthy Communities was formed to find a solution to make walking along – and crossing – the state highways safer. In the three years since the group first came together, they’ve successfully achieved several of their goals: a roundabout at the intersection of the two state highways is now funded, which will include sidewalks and a new pedestrian crossing that will allow children from Kendall Elementary School to safely cross the to the North Fork Community Library; speed limits have been reduced in the area; and plans are underway to extend sidewalks from the roundabout to the Kendall Elementary School. 

Yet a significant barrier remains. Most homes are located two-to-three miles from key services and across the highway from the resource center that houses a Head Start facility, a community resource referral specialist, and numerous community events each week. So the newly-formed Kendall-Columbia Valley Connectivity Plan Association (KCVCPA), an evolution of the original community coalition, has taken on the task of creating a plan for a three-mile pedestrian and bicycle trail to connect homes and services.  Such a trail would provide a safe route to school for hundreds of students; allow residents to walk or bike to the library, churches or store; and provide a safe, affordable opportunity to recreate and exercise.  A recent community survey conducted by the KCVCPA indicated that 74% of area residents feel it is important to have places to walk and bike in their community, over 94% indicated they support the idea of creating a trail and 76% are “very likely” to use the trail if built.

The KCVCPA is thrilled to partner with WASLA and the National Park Service (NPS) to host a design workshop in April  -- and help us commemorate Landscape Architecture Month.  The WASLA-NPS partnership has proven to be a catalyst for projects with local communities and partners since 1998, and this is another exciting chance to help a community explore ideas and solutions, and shape a vision for their future.  To volunteer with planning the charrette or to serve on a design team, contact Don Benson, WASLA, at 206-297-1259 or by email at [email protected]


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